Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pulling a Handcart in the Days of '47 Parade

I think I've never had my picture taken more times in a single day than I did on July 24, 2009, when I pulled a handcart in Salt Lake City's "Days of '47" pioneer day parade. I loved it. I loved smiling and waving at everyone.

Thank you so much to my friend John Lodefink for giving me the opportunity to have this experience! Thank you also to Karen Gillmore, who made my pioneer dress. Here's a photo of John and me at about 5:45 a.m that day.

John lives in Sugarhouse, and rather than loading his handcart on a trailer, he enjoys walking and pulling it to the parade route, through the parade, and then back home again. That makes about a 20 mile day. I wasn't sure I was ready for that, so I met him at Liberty Park at 5:45, where the parade ends. We pulled the handcart along the route in reverse, and enjoyed seeing the participants of that day's fun run go by.

When we reached the starting point, we pulled out some lawn chairs and relaxed for an hour or two before the parade started. During this time, I enjoyed meeting the son of an actual pioneer who had crossed the plains. His father had been a baby when he crossed the plains, in one of the last pioneer treks, and had fathered this man (who is now in his 70's or 80's) when he was a very old man himself.

What a thrill it was to wave and smile at the crowds. We were the fourth entry in the parade, and the first handcart, and so the spectators were excited to see us.

The part I wasn't prepared for, however, was seeing people begin to cry as they saw us, or seeing people wipe tears from their eyes as we walked by. In all the fun and excitement of a modern day parade, it's easy to forget the meaning of it all. But when people started wiping away tears, I remembered that our handcart and our costumes made us a symbol of the very high price that the early Mormon pioneers paid for their faith.

I felt honored to represent them that day.

Although I must admit feeling a little guilty to have people cheer for me, when I was wearing nice comfortable shoes, wearing gloves that would prevent me from getting callouses, and pulling a very lightly loaded handcart along a nice, smooth road for only 3 miles or so. I knew those cheers really weren't meant for me, but were for those early pioneers who sacrificed so much. Perhaps someday I will have the opportunity to pass those cheers along to those who truly deserve them.